Wollongong and Newcastle Lead the Charge in NSW Parliamentary Inquiry

Yours and Owls Festival Image Credit: The Brag
Scarlett Di Maio
| August 28, 2018

As the NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into the Music and Arts Economy continues, Wollongong and Newcastle are being examined for their success in resurrecting their night time economies and fostering their cities as cultural hubs.

Wollongong is being held in high regard for reviving the community’s live music scene, and a NSW parliamentary inquiry is examining how their models can be replicated in other parts of the state. The ‘Wollongong Approach’, has also caught the attention of Newcastle City Council, another region which has seen improved relations between venues, police, planners and residents, such as introducing a more streamlined noise complaints process which has helped avoid clashes between venues and residents.

Christian Democrat MP Paul Green, who is chairing the inquiry and led his colleagues on a tour of the city’s nightlife last month, said he was impressed with what they saw. He told ABC News “Sydney is dropping off, it’s not good, it’s dying a slow death, but Wollongong, from the evidence we’ve received, is onto it — they’ve got a working model.”

Owner of Wollongong venue and festival Yours and Owls, Adam Smith added, “You’ve had this flood of all these new small venues, there’s been a big movement on from council and police to look at different strategies and provide people with options to not be in a situation where they will be violent.”

The inquiry has brought to the forefront issues that venues in the CBD have been battling for a while, including lock out laws and the egregious amounts of regulation and red tape. According to the ABC, witnesses told the Inquiry that Wollongong had once suffered from a “terrible reputation” for violence, but allowing more small bars to open and attracting a more diverse range of people into town after dark had changed that.

Newcastle arts advocate Linda Drummond told the ABC that both industrial cities were leading the night-time economy revival.

“People don’t go to a small bar to get smashed, people go to talk with their friends, get some interesting music and drink a small amount of really high-quality alcohol,” Drummond said.

Drummond said a strategy similar to Wollongong’s would ensure inner-city residents and venues were on the same page.

“In Newcastle, there’s been a lot more revitalisation and apartments being built in the city, but it’s important for those people to realise the city doesn’t close down at five o’clock. There’s going to be noise, sounds and smells,” she said.

The parliamentary has also had hearings in the northern NSW town of Byron Bay, which is the home of international music festivals including Splendour in the Grass and Falls Festival. You can read the transcript of that hearing here.

Established on 23 November 2017, the NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into the Music and Arts Economy was created to inquire into and report on the music and arts economy in New South Wales.

Submissions to the Inquiry are available online here, with additional responses from questions on notice provided here.

In addition to the NSW Inquiry, a broader inquiry into the Australian Music Industry was announced this month by the Minister for Communications and the Arts , Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield.  The Inquiry will report on “factors contributing to the growth and sustainability of the Australian music industry. “

The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Communications and the Arts will examine the potential for continued growth and the factors affecting the success of the Australian music industry, both domestically and internationally.

In particular, the Committee wants to hear how Australian songwriters, composers, performers and producers can expand their reach and better compete with overseas artists. Music creators, investors, music companies, record labels, cultural organisations, festivals and other businesses that connect Australian musicians and music with audiences are encouraged to make a submission.

Submissions are due by 21 September and can be made online or by or by emailing  [email protected]

For more information about the Inquiry, head here.

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